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Monster Mush

Lack of plot defeats "Alien Vs. Predator."

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The story follows a group of specialists, led by Alexa (Sanaa Lathan), on a reconnaissance mission 2000 feet below the surface in Antarctica to analyze a heat pocket that's of immense curiosity to billionaire Charles Weyland (Henriksen). The plot is built around a subterranean, culturally jumbled pyramid, where Predators once ruled mankind and used humans as incubators for breeding "the ultimate prey." It seems that every 100 years, the Predators square off against the same aliens that Sigourney Weaver battled so bravely.

Writer and director Paul W.S. Anderson ("Resident Evil," "Mortal Kombat") lays out the sloppy narrative background as half-baked window dressing for the video-game acid bloodletting that must occur. Anderson endears the audience to the Predator side of the battle by establishing a faulty logic that states "the enemy of my enemy is my friend." This enables Alexa to team up with one of the tall Predator-Rastafarian killing machines while using the hollowed-out skull of an Alien as a shield to fight a slew of the double-jawed Aliens.

As a genre, the burgeoning video-game movie demonstrates a limited scope geared specifically toward audiences wanting to take a break from their X-Boxes long enough to savor similar action battles on a big screen. "AVP" is remarkable primarily for its competent rendering of H.R. Giger's grotesque Alien monsters. Anderson overuses obligatory close-up shots of the horrific Alien teeth coming within inches of Alexa's face, but it's such a potent image that it still packs a punch of anxiety no matter how many times it's used.

When our hero Predator slices an Alien head in half, exposing a cavern of green goo, it's a deeply satisfying moment for the conditioned audiences who've seen the original Alien movies, and who carry the dread of that genuinely tense experience with them. But because we are not allowed any vested interest in Alexa as anything more than a puppet protagonist of a character, none of the chase scenes or fierce battles carries much dramatic weight.

In the end, there's no question about which of the two creatures is more unnerving or indestructible, and the filmmakers make sure to leverage that element into an open ending to telegraph the possibility of an equally contemptible sequel. Anderson is a British director who's made a career out of directing video-game styled action movies that are all technique and no substance. Perhaps this genre of film should be made with even less attention to character and story. Then they could be enjoyed purely, like violent spectacle as cinematic wallpaper. * S

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